Be Selfish. It’s ok.
From a young age, we are often taught that being selfish is a bad and negative thing. ‘Don’t be selfish, share, it’s not all about what you want, think of everyone else’s feelings not just your own’
I spent much of my twenties doing what others wanted and it was second nature for me to put boyfriends, friends and colleagues needs before my own. I had a brilliant time at University but frequently seemed to be at parties I wasn’t especially bothered about and socialised with people I didn’t even particularly like. Rarely did I turn down an invite, even though often I would rather have been heating a tin of Heinz macaroni cheese in our communal kitchen and playing my En Vogue CD on repeat.
Now I sit here as a woman in her late thirties, look back and wonder why? Was it because I had been taught not to be selfish as a little girl and interpreted that as also not to put myself first? Or was it because I just didn’t have the confidence at that age to say no, probably for fear of not being liked and included?
By the time, I had left University and moved in with the current boyfriend, I think my ‘putting others before myself’ mentality, had got a little out of hand, to the point where if there had been an actual list for personal fulfilment and daily needs being met, I wasn’t just second or third on the list but didn’t actually feature on the list at all. I had become a people pleaser.
The brilliant thing about getting older is (hopefully) you are lucky enough and open enough, to learn things. Things about yourself, things about others and things about life. You learn why people do certain things at certain times and react in certain ways.
Being young is figuring all this out. If you didn’t go through things that weren’t pleasant and that made you uncomfortable, how would you work out what you really needed in life to make yourself happy? Youth is a time when we should be learning exactly what we will and won't put up with in later years, what we want to spend our time doing and importantly, who we want to spend our time with.
The problem is often, that we can still be figuring this out way into our thirties and for many people it seems to be even later than that. For a few, it’s a never-ending life long battle.
Many of us seem to go through life as people pleasers and we forget about ourselves entirely. We have less and less time as we get older often due to work and family commitments, so spending it with people whose company we really do genuinely enjoy, becomes more important.
I have now realised that what people don’t tell you, is there is actually good selfish and bad selfish.
Good selfish is not being a people pleaser all of the time. It can be exhausting, draining and incredibly unfulfilling. Going to things you don’t really want to go to and often mixing with people you don’t really like, isn’t good for the soul - It’s certainly not good for mine.
It’s more than ok (in fact it should be marked down as essential) to be selfish!
It doesn’t stop you caring about people or mean you need to be rude or dismissive. Too many people associate having an opinion or saying ‘No’ with negativity but It’s perfectly ok to say ‘No, I don’t fancy that’ Or just ‘No, thank you.’
I was always taught it’s good to be who you are and have an opinion but always be mindful of others feelings. Don’t sacrifice your own needs and wants all of the time, you are as important as everyone else.
What has it taught me?
Be brave. If people are offended that is their issue. Real friends and those that care about you, want you to be happy, it’s as simple as that. I have a few close friends, we don’t speak often, or see each other often but I know they have my back and I have theirs. They would do anything for me if it came to it. If I don’t want to do something, they won’t persecute me for it.
I think I may teach our children that there is good selfish and bad selfish and that thinking of others but never neglecting yourself in life, is maybe the difference between an adult that feels in control of what they really want to do and what they feel they should do.
In life, you constantly find yourself in situations where others have to come first, (if motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that) and this just has to be, but on the days when you can get away with it, please be selfish. Just a little bit. The world won’t end but you might just find a whole new liberated and empowered you.